Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Mobile Broadband the Fastest Growing ICT in Human History

 Increasingly a game-changing challenge for the broadcasting industry
The 2016 State of Broadband report has been released by the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable DevelopmentAt the global level, the total number of mobile cellular subscriptions will reach 7.4 billion by the end of 2016, according to the latest ITU estimates, with almost half of these subscriptions for mobile broadband. GSMA estimates that there were 4.7 billion unique mobile subscribers worldwide by the end of 2015 (63% of the global population). 6,5 billion smartphone subscriptions are forecast by 2022.

Some observers have interpreted this as an indication that the digital divide in mobile may soon be bridged. Last year’s “The State of Broadband” report found that mobile broadband is likely to be the fastest-growing ICT in human history.

In its report the Commission is optimistic about the potential of mobile broadband, with 165 countries now having deployed '4G' high-speed mobile networks. As smartphone penetration reaches near-saturation in the US, Europe and mature markets in Asia like Japan and Korea, India and Indonesia in particular are expected to drive future growth. India also recently overtook the US to become the world's second-largest smartphone market, with an estimated 260 million mobile broadband subscriptions.

The Commission argues that if today's near-universal basic mobile phone access could be converted to high-speed mobile broadband access, mobile phones could serve as a major accelerator of development, driving rapid progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a large body of economic evidence for the role of affordable broadband connectivity as a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Commission with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Broadband technologies can be powerful development multipliers, he added, but this requires combined investments in access and in skills and in education. This is about opening new paths to create and share knowledge. It is about enhancing freedom of expression and about widening learning opportunities, especially for girls and women. This is about developing content that is relevant, local and multilingual.

The report confirms that according to latest ITU figures, by end 2016 3.5 billion people will be using the Internet, up from 3.2 billion last year and equating to 47% of the global population. This year's figures show that, once again, the top ten developing countries for household Internet penetration are all located in Asia or the Middle East. The Republic of Korea continues to have the world's highest household Internet penetration, with 98.8% of homes connected followed by Qatar (96%) and United Arab Emirates (95%).

India has overtaken the United States to become the world's second largest Internet market, with 333 million users, trailing China's 721 million. But the new report also confirms that just six nations – including China and India – together account for 55% of the total global population still offline, because of the sheer size of their populations. Globally, an estimated 3.9 billion people are not using the Internet. 

Iceland continues to have the highest percentage of individuals using the Internet (98.2%), while Luxembourg (97.3%) has surpassed Norway to take second place, and Andorra (97%) takes third place from Denmark. There are now seven economies (Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and the Republic of Korea) where fixed broadband penetration exceeds 40%, up from six countries in 2014 and just one nation (Switzerland) in 2012.

Finland has the world's highest percentage of active mobile broadband subscriptions, with 144 subscriptions per 100 people, followed by Singapore, Kuwait, Bahrain, Japan  Sweden and Denmark. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for nearly half (48%) of all active mobile broadband subscriptions.

In total, there are now 91 economies where over 50% of the population is online, up from 79 in 2015. But whereas in 2014 the top ten countries for Internet use were all located in Europe, this year sees Bahrain (ranked 7th) and Japan (9th) join the group. The lowest levels of Internet usage are found in sub-Saharan Africa, with less than 3% of the population using the Internet.

The Broadband Commission comprises more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors who are committed to actively assisting countries, UN experts and NGO teams to fully leverage the huge potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to drive new national SDG strategies in key areas like education, healthcare and environmental management.

This is the sixth edition of the Commission's annual broadband connectivity report which features country-by-country rankings based on access and affordability for over 160 economies worldwide.

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